EL NIDO, Palawan — Record winners Gary Hunt of Great Britain and Rhiannan Iffland of Australia dominated in the opening stop of the 2019 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series
After winning the final four stops last year, seven-time champion Hunt began this season where he left off – the brilliant Brit is unbeaten in five competitions across seasons.
In El Nido’s beautiful lagoons Romania’s Constantin Popovici edged the leader after three rounds, Jonathan Paredes from Mexico, out of second place in his first competition as a permanent diver from 27 metres.
“I knew it was going to be a tough competition. Constantin pushed me right until the edge and that’s been like that for a couple of competitions now. I know it’s not going to be easy, but that’s one,” said Hunt.
“I want to be diving against the best people in the world and here is where I can do that. I don’t want to be just on my own. It’s much more fun when it’s a fight.”
No surprises for the women in the season opener.
Three-time champion Iffland got off to a flyer in this unspoilt location off the Philippines’ Palawan Island.
Yana Nestsiarava from Belarus equalled her best-ever finish in second place, with Canada’s Lysanne Richard completing the podium.
“Super happy and a bit surprised as well. I was standing up there and thought the win is a bit out of my reach, but I do like that extra bit of pressure. It definitely helps me when I’m out on the platform. It helps me to stay calm and collected and enjoy what I do. Super stoked and kind of out of words,” said Iffland.
“It’s a good start, but the rest of the season I’d like to be just as consistent. I did four consistent dives here in the Philippines. I’d like to carry that on for the rest of the season and I’ll be happy if I can do so.”
With a pair of 10s for Paredes’ first dive of the season, the Mexican launched immaculately from the rocky off-the-cliffs spots above emerald green lagoon waters, taking the lead into round four.
However, it was in this final round when Popovici’s impressive armstand dive earned the Romanian the high score of the day and his first ever World Series podium, just 1.35 points ahead of Mexico’s style master.
It was record winner Hunt, though, who nailed his final dive to stay unbeaten with his dive list for a fifth time.